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DE JESUS-KEOLAMPHU v. VILLAGE OF PELHAM MANOR

April 3, 1998

GILDA DE JESUS-KEOLAMPHU, NARONG KEOLAMPHU, GERDA BARTNIK and KAZIMIERZ BARTNIK, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF PELHAM MANOR, NEW YORK, MAYOR VALENTINE TAUBNER OF THE VILLAGE OF PELHAM MANOR, NEW YORK, DEPUTY MAYOR AND TRUSTEE BRIAN GALLAGHER and TRUSTEES FERDINAND SPUCCI, JOHN KIERNAN, and PETER DIPAOLA as the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham Manor, New York, each of the above is sued in their official capacity and as individuals, COMMISSIONER OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF MENTAL RETARDATION AND DISABILITIES, THOMAS A. MAUL, ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF MENTAL RETARDATION AND DISABILITIES, SUSAN B. O'REILLY, and PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST FOR THE NEW YORK STATE WESTCHESTER DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES SERVICES OFFICE, JEFFREY ENVID, each of the above is being sued in their official capacity and as individuals, STATE OF NEW YORK OFFICE OF MENTAL RETARDATION AND DISABILITIES SERVICES, ST. AGATHA HOME OF THE NEW YORK FOUNDLING HOSPITAL and ELIZABETH EKIZIAN, Defendants.


William C. Conner, Senior United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

Conner, Senior D.J.:

 This case arises out of plaintiffs' opposition to the relocation onto their street of a residential home for mentally retarded adults. At bottom, plaintiffs claim that the decision to place the group home on their street was racially motivated. Named as defendants are numerous entities and individuals allegedly responsible for the relocation. They are: (1) the Village of Pelham Manor, where plaintiffs reside and where the group home is located; (2) Valentine Taubner, the former mayor of the village, and Brian Gallagher, the current mayor and a former trustee of the village; (3) Ferdinand Spucci, John Kiernan, and Peter DiPaola, former village trustees; (4) the State of New York Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (the "OMRDD"); (5) Thomas Maul and Susan O'Reilly, the commissioner and assistant commissioner, respectively, of the OMRDD; (6) Jeffrey Envid, an employee of the Westchester Developmental Disabilities Services Office, which is a local branch of the OMRDD; (7) St. Agatha Home of the New York Foundling Hospital, a not-for-profit corporation that runs the group home at issue; and (8) Elizabeth Ekizian, the Director of ICF Programs for St. Agatha.

 Presently before the court are motions by each of three groups of defendants. First, the "Village Defendants" (the Village of Pelham Manor, Taubner, Gallagher, Spucci, Kiernan, and DiPaola) move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Second, the "State Defendants" (the OMRDD, Maul, O'Reilly, and Envid) move to dismiss the amended complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Third, the "St. Agatha Defendants" (St. Agatha and Ekizian) also move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The Village and St. Agatha Defendants also seek attorneys' fees pursuant to Rule 11 and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1988(b).

 For the reasons discussed below, the motions are granted.

 BACKGROUND

 I. Mental Hygiene Law

 Before setting out the relevant facts, a brief explanation of New York's Mental Hygiene Law (the "MHL") will provide a framework for assimilating the facts. The MHL reflects New York's "policy favoring the deinstitutionalization of mentally and developmentally disabled persons, and their placement in supervised residences housing small groups." Crane Neck Ass'n, Inc. v. New York City/Long Island County Servs. Group, 61 N.Y.2d 154, 472 N.Y.S.2d 901, 904-05, 460 N.E.2d 1336, 1339 (1984). It provides for grants and reimbursements to entities operating such community residences. See id.

 Section 41.34 of the Mental Hygiene Law -- also known as the "Padavan Law" -- establishes site selection procedures for community residences. Section 41.34(c)(1) provides that a sponsoring agency shall notify the municipality when it has selected a site for a community residence. The municipality then has 40 days to approve the recommended site, suggest suitable alternative sites, or object to the site on the grounds of over-concentration or substantial alteration of the neighborhood. Section 41.34(c)(5) provides that if the municipality and the sponsoring agency cannot agree on a location, either party can request an immediate hearing (a "Padavan hearing") before the appropriate state agency.

 These selection procedures were designed to "minimize resistance and avoid[] legal battles that had impeded the community residence program." Crane Neck, 472 N.Y.S.2d at 906-08, 460 N.E.2d at 1341-43. As the following factual account demonstrates, this goal has not always been met.

 II. Facts

 The following factual account is culled from the Amended Complaint and the 600 pages of exhibits annexed thereto.

 Plaintiffs Gilda De Jesus Keolamphu, Narong Keolamphu, Gerda Bartnik, and Kazimierz Bartnik are two couples living on Shore View Circle, a cul-de-sac in Pelham Manor. Mrs. De Jesus Keolamphu is Hispanic and Dr. Keolamphu is Thai. The Bartniks are caucasians of European descent. The other residents of Shore View Circle include Byonsuk and Shihan Kim, a Korean-American couple; inhabitants of a consular residence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and Fred and Lorette Werner and Nicholas Clemente, also caucasians of European descent. *fn1"

 In 1979, St. Agatha established a group home for eight mentally retarded adults in a rented house at 895 James Street in Pelham Manor. In 1988, the Village was notified by New Directions in Human Services, Inc. ("New Directions"), pursuant to the Padavan Law, of its intent to establish a second group home at 494 Siwanoy Place. Citizens residing nearby the proposed site opposed the location. Accordingly, the Village appointed a site selection committee (the "Committee") to identify and suggest alternate locations. In its November 14, 1988 report, the Committee identified eight alternate sites for the new group home. Of the eight, the Committee's unanimous first choice was One Shore View Circle because it was a structurally adaptable house on a large, flat lot with no through traffic, in close proximity to public transportation, public parks, and a church. (See Site Selection Committee Report, attached as Exh. 21 to Am. Compl.) Eventually, the list was paired to four possible locations, with One Shore View Circle remaining the top choice.

 Later that month, the Village Board of Trustees held two public meetings to discuss the alternate sites. Plaintiff Gerda Bartnik attended these meetings and expressed her opposition to Shore View Circle as an alternate location. Mrs. Bartnik asserted that the house at that location was inadequate and that traffic on the cul-de-sac was "fast and heavy." (See Minutes of Nov. 17, 1988 Public Hearing, attached as Exh. 24 to Am. Compl.) She also contended that the Committee's judgment was clouded by conflicts of interest. (See Minutes of Nov. 21, 1988 Public Hearing, attached as Exh. 25 to Am. Compl.) At the latter meeting, then-Mayor Jack Kaufmann indicated that the Board of Trustees had heard that One Shore View Circle was no longer on the market. The Board indicated that it would keep the Shore View Circle site on the list until such information could be confirmed. (See id.) The point became moot, however, when New Directions withdrew its application to establish a group home. (See Exhs. 31-33 to Am. Compl.)

 In any event, One Shore View Circle was back on the market by May 1992. (See Am. Compl. P 127 & Exh. 36 attached thereto.) In January 1994, St. Agatha arranged to purchase One Shore View Circle, intending to move its group home to that location at the expiration of its James Street lease. After arranging the purchase, St. Agatha notified the Village of its plans. (See Am. Compl. PP 140-43 & Exh. 41 attached thereto.) On February 28, 1994, the Village held a public meeting to discuss the proposed relocation. Mrs. De Jesus Keolamphu, Mrs. Bartnik, and Dr. Shihan Kim attended the meeting, at which Mrs. Bartnik read a prepared statement. The statement stated that "we the homeowners of Shore View Circle believe that we have been discriminated against due to the fact that we are the minority" and threatened litigation "to seek relief for damages caused by discrimination." (Exh. 44 to Am. Compl.) Dr. Kim also read a prepared statement, in which he expressed concern that double parking by the group home's staff would interfere with his on-call duties as a physician. He also stated: "We feel we are being discriminated against because we are a five family minority neighborhood. . . . I feel that our neighborhood has been targeted and that we have been unfairly discriminated against." (Exh. 45 to Am. Compl.)

 A second public meeting was held on March 7, 1994. Again, Mrs. De Jesus Keolamphu, Mrs. Bartnik, and Dr. Kim were in attendance. At the meeting, then-Mayor Taubner and Trustee Spucci each read a letter from Elizabeth Ekizian, the director of St. Agatha's group home. In the letters, Ekizian explained the reasons for moving the home from James Street to Shore View Circle, including St. Agatha's inability to purchase the 895 James Street property and the practical benefits of the property at One Shore View Circle. (See Exh. 46 to Am. Compl.) At the conclusion of the meeting, the Village Board passed the following resolution:

 
. . . WHEREAS, St. Agatha determined that it wished to move its facility from 895 James Street because of, among other things, the high rent being sought by the landlord; and
 
WHEREAS, St. Agatha examined eleven houses for sale in both [Pelham Manor] and the Village of Pelham; has carefully considered the alternative properties available for sale; and, has chosen the property at 1 Shore View Circle as the best alternative to its current site on James Street; and
 
WHEREAS, St. Agatha has made arrangements to purchase 1 Shore View Circle; and . . .
 
WHEREAS, a relocation of St. Agatha to 1 Shore View Circle would remove [that] property from the tax rolls, costing the village, town, county and school district approximately $ 12,000 yearly; and
 
WHEREAS, both properties would continue on the tax roll if St. Agatha were to remain at its James Street address; and
 
WHEREAS, [at the request of the Village], the landlord at James Street has agreed to reduce the requested rent to a level that had been paid by St. Agatha in the past . . .
 
RESOLVED, that, because of the impact on the tax roll of a move to 1 Shore View Circle and because the rental terms at 895 James Street would remain at prior levels -- and only for these reasons -- the Board of Trustees recommends . . . that St. Agatha remain at its James Street location as an alternative site for its facility; and it is further
 
RESOLVED, that should the James Street location be found an unsatisfactory alternative, the Board finds that the 1 ...

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